Millions of readers who love New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry and her novels cherish the magical passport she provides into the age of Victoria at its brilliant zenith. It was an unforgettable time when rich and powerful Englishmen contrived to make themselves even richer and more powerful. When Englishwomen were the glittering ornaments of an opulent society, rolling over cobblestones in their costly carriages, entertaining the chosen few in their elegant drawing rooms. Thoughts of the poor, rotting in London slums and in British dominions east and west of Suez, seldom troubled this prideful aristocracy. But a shocking murder was soon to remind them of their ever-present vulnerability.In the first gray of a mid-September morning, Thomas Pitt, mainstay of Her Majesty's Special Branch, is summoned to Connaught Square mansion where the body of a junior diplomat lies huddled in a wheelbarrow.
In her 23rd Victorian mystery featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt (after 2002's Southampton Row), Perry uses a pending economic crisis to good effect. Now firmly ensconced in his job with Special Branch, Thomas looks into the murder of a junior diplomat, whose corpse turns up in a wheelbarrow in a garden belonging to a mysterious and beautiful Egyptian woman, Ayesha Zakhari. Pitt travels to Egypt for answers, but the more he learns about Miss Zakhari the more he suspects that she's the pawn in some ugly political game.The Pitts' maid, Gracie, involves Charlotte in the search for a missing valet.Gracie also enlists the aid of Thomas's former subordinate, Sergeant Tellman, and in one of the charming subplots of the book, their romance develops further. The trail leads Charlotte into the dark and dangerous alleys of London's Seven Dials district, and eventually she and Thomas discover that the two cases intersect in a horrifying way. Perry once again delivers a complex and satisfying tale that fans of the series will devour. (Feb. 4) Forecast: With a big promotional push including national print ads and a sample chapter in the paperback edition of Southampton Row (Feb.), this should hit some bestseller lists. The London Times selected Perry as one of the 20th century's "100 Masters of Crime." Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 30, 2004
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Excerpt from Seven Dials by Anne Perry
Pitt opened his eyes but the thumping did not stop. The first gray of mid-September daylight showed through the curtains. It was not yet six, and there was someone at the front door.
Beside him, Charlotte stirred a little in her sleep. In a moment the knocking would waken her too. He slid out of bed and moved quickly across the floor and onto the landing. He ran down the stairs in his bare feet, snatched his coat off the rack in the hall, and with one arm through the sleeve, unbolted the front door.
"Good morning, sir," Jesmond said apologetically, his hand still in the air to knock again. He was about twenty-four, seconded from one of the local London police stations to Special Branch, and he considered it to be a great promotion. "Sorry, sir," he went on. "But Mr. Narraway wants you, straightaway, like."
Pitt saw the waiting hansom just beyond him, the horse fidgeting a little, its breath hanging vapor in the air. "All right," he said with irritation. It was not a particularly interesting case he was on, but he had it nearly solved; only one or two small pieces remained. He did not want a distraction now. "Come in." He gestured behind him towards the passage to the kitchen. "If you know how, you can riddle the stove and put the kettle on."
"No time, sir, beggin' your pardon," Jesmond said grimly. "Can't tell you wot it's about, but Mr. Narraway said ter come right away." He stood firmly on the pavement as if remaining rooted to the spot would make Pitt leave with him even sooner.
Pitt sighed and went back in, closing the door to keep the damp air out. He climbed the stairs, doffing his coat, and by the time he was in the bedroom, pouring water out of the ewer into the basin, Charlotte was sitting up in bed pushing her heavy hair out of her eyes.
"What is it?" she asked, although after more than ten years of marriage to him, first when he was in the police, now the last few months in the Special Branch, she knew. She started to get out of bed.
"Don't," he said quickly. "There's no point."
"I'll get you a cup of tea, at least," she replied, ignoring him and standing on the rug beside the bed. "And some hot water to shave. It'll only take twenty minutes or so."